Elena and Meg, header


Unsuitable for Mainstream

In June 2022, a journalist in Scotland was "really interested in doing the story" about how Meg and I live, to stay together and that we want to come to Scotland. He asked us his questions, we answered them and it all seemed to be wrapping up nicely. But then, the journalist vanished. These are our answers.

Elena, what it was like when your family followed you to Kiev and what actually happened when you were there?

Where did the idea to buy the boat come from?

ELENA: It wasn't my idea. Meg thought of getting an aircraft. But it couldn't work in the time we had to be legal in Ukraine or Turkiye. No way she could do that with all the regulations. So the boat was the only way to get out.

Were any charges filed against Meg for ‘people smuggling’?

MEG: Not charges, but I was threatened by border agents with arrest. Aalthough it was Elena they dragged off the boat and hauled away in a caged people mover. I was then brought in for questioning and forced to post a hefty bond for Elena's release, and a promissory note for expenses incurred should she be detained and deported.

How did it feel living on that boat for five years? Were you able to work or do anything at all?

ELENA: Five years? I've been living on this boat for 16 years. Since the day I stepped onto it in Marmaris, in late April 2006. You mean in Victoria? It was different compared to living in the house that we just have sold to cover the coasts of our little adventure. No room to store anything. Always in each other's sight. No furniture. There is nothing great about living on the boat. But it was what we chose to do. Living in a house and having cranky neighbors in a posh neighborhood, wasn't us. No life there. So we chose the boat and freedom.

Elena Vaytsel, Panama

Elena, Panama, 2022

Work? We were fine financially, so I didn't have to work. I did try to see if I could use my training as an architect. No way. They looked at me as if I was an alien. At the architectural firms I mean. They weren't even willing to give me a position of a drafts-person. What a laugh. The only position opened for the likes of me was a dishwasher. But I didn't do it, because I didn't have to. I was lucky, I had a choice. I didn't come to Canada to "work". Though I might have if I felt good there. I came to Canada, because it was Meg's home. Or so she then thought.

Why did you decide to leave Canada and where did you go afterwards?

ELENA: We never thought of staying in Canada for good in first place. We wanted to leave sooner. I thought we would wrap the documentation thing up in about a year and would go sailing the world. This was the plan all along. But in order to exist on this planet, a human needs papers. Needs to be a citizen of a country. I was a citizen of Russia, in Canada they took my passport away. We've been living in limbo for years, when they were issuing me one paper after another. None of them made me equal to Meg of gave me anything valuable, like freedom of movement.

So, after we spent 5 years in Canada, I applied for citizenship and we left. We needed to start living our lives, had enough of immigration games and squandering our lives. We had a world before us and a sailboat! Who would miss such an opportunity? We were not going to. Life is too short, we learnt that in Canada very well.

Why Scotland?

ELENA: Meg and I have seen the world. Lots of countries. None of them spoke to our hearts. In the "developing" world there is no regard for life. Any life. Human or otherwise. We saw sharks being slaughtered in Mexico for their fins. In huge numbers. Nobody cares. Nobody even thinks. We see devastation of wild world everywhere we go. In Central America, the things we witness take away our desire to live. There is no respect for anything here. No hygiene, men rape their granddaughters, 12 year-olds get pregnant and disappear, every live being or resource is being killed or destroyed and sold. No culture to speak of. It sounds grim, but this is just how it is. You don't hear about it because it isn't the kind of image of tropics that sells. It gets you no tourists from the West.

I consider English, Scottish cultures to be my culture. A lot of what I know and love comes from that island. There was lots of UK influence in the USSR. We love Conan Doyle, Dickens, Wells. The human history that I am interested in, comes from the UK. It has all of it for me: Romans, Celts, Vikings. All of it, is people standing up for themselves. Strong people. People who fight for their home. People who survive having very little. I admire that. Meg and I love watching Neil Oliver telling us stories. We love documentaries with Brian Cox. Nobody in the world makes anything like that! We so much appreciate that there is BBC and ITV. Without them, we would have no home. They care for animals too. They have SPCA! Nothing like that exists in most parts of the world. Life, any life, to me and Meg is of out-most importance. We can't belong in places, where others don't feel the same way. Where life exists to be exploited and mutilated.

Have you applied to the UK government for LGBT asylum?

MEG: I don't think I would have grounds for asylum, being from Canada. Which would mean, should Elena be granted asylum, I could visit her for 3 months a year, or however long I was allowed to be a tourist in the UK. Seeing as living on the run all these years has had everything to do with being together, it would defeat our purpose. We want a place to call home and participate in as equals, as a family.

ELENA: No, we have not. I am tired of being a "refugee". I never wanted to be one. I wanted to be with Meg. And together, as a family, we wanted to live our lives to the fullest. Free. To go where we want, doing what we want. Being a refugee for the rest of my life, isn't going to do that. I've been a refugee, an outcast and an exile for 16 years already. I had enough. I want to be a human being. I want my family to have the right to make plans and fulfill our dreams. We have plenty of such dreams. But we can do nothing about it. We are cursed because I happen to be a Russian.

The bottom line, it so happened that Meg and I fled across the world to be together. While doing so, we liberated ourselves from any sort of conditioning the modern world imposes on you. We have all "the problems" because we became free. We are not willing to endlessly play somebody else's games. Life is way to precious to spend it on getting more and more papers. But we do want to belong. We do want to find like-minded people. We are dying in the third world. We want to have the freedom to come and stay where we belong.

Meg, Bahamas

Meg, Bahamas, 2018

Elena Vaytsel, Meg Aitken in BC

Elena, Alabama hills, SC, 2015

What do you hope to get from Scotland? Is it a case of acquiring citizenship?

ELENA: Me, becoming a citizen of developed world, the UK for instance, would solve many of our problems. But what we really need is for BOTH of us to be citizens of the same country. It has been our dream, THE objective for the last 16 years. Since the very beginning of our life together, in Kyiv, Ukraine. It would change absolutely everything for Meg and I. We would no longer be living with the threat of us being separated or be forced to move. Again and again! Living in the ocean, essentially, in no man's land. Always on the run, wandering the seas between the few countries that allow both Russians and Canadian's enter as tourists.

The mutual citizenship would make our life safer, would make us feel that we have a place to belong. That we have a place to come home to. That we have people who know us and are glad to see us when we return. I no longer know what it feels like to approach "your own" town, on a plane or train, and tremble seeing it's lights, recognizing it's streets. I want to feel that again. More than anything, right now, I want to love again - the place and people. And to be loved. It can happen only if Meg and I, both, have the right to come from the sea and are not pushed back into it.

So, yes, citizenship is the ultimate goal, for Meg and I. But we keep our heads cool, we don't expect anything from others. We can't, in order to survive. We have to stay pragmatic.

Elena Vaytsel, Meg Aitken in BC

Elena and Meg, BC, 2012

Where will you go if you cannot stay in Central America?

ELENA: I have no idea. There is enough countries in the world where both Canadians and Russians are admissible as tourists, but so what? It is mostly South America and some of Asia and Africa. I have two maps on my computer. One of them is visa requirement for Russians. The other - for Canadians. This is how we live, comparing these two maps, calculating what will be our next place of exile. I no longer can do this to myself. This kind of life is killing us. It isn't life, it is a never-ending exile. And why should we do this to ourselves? What did we do to deserve it? We happen to love each other and we happen to be two women. I suspect, it is the latter condition that is the cause behind our life on the run. If one of us was a man, things would have turned out very differently for us. Starting with the very Ukraine. With our very families.

Elena Vaytsel, Meg Aitken

Visa requirements for Russian citizens

Elena Vaytsel, Meg Aitken

Visa requirements for Canadian citizens

I don't know where Meg and I will go when we are forced to leave the Central American country we are now in. But I am sure, that when we do chose the direction, we will make the most of it. There is just no other way. To us, life is all about experience.

Elena Vaytsel, Meg Aitken in Panama

Elena and Meg, Central America, 2022